Jeff Bewkes Blames AT&T Incompetence For Bungled Time Warner, HBO Mergers

from the everybody-is-to-blame-except-myself dept

We've noted more than a few times how the AT&T Time Warner and DirecTV mergers were a monumental, historical disaster. AT&T spent $200 billion to acquire both companies thinking it would dominate the video and internet ad space. Instead, the company lost 9 million subscribers in nine years, fired 50,000 employees, closed numerous popular brands (DC's Vertigo imprint, Mad Magazine), and basically stumbled around incompetently for several years before recently spinning off the entire mess for a song.

In a new book slated to be released next week, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes didn't hold back when talking about AT&T's absolute incompetence at running a media empire:

"The most disappointing thing to me about the AT&T merger," Mr. Bewkes is quoted in the book as saying, is that he and his board thought AT&T "would basically leave our people alone." That didn't happen, he said. "We didn't think they would go to such a level of malpractice as to not listen to anybody… even though they themselves had no experience in those areas."

Granted Bewkes was the one that proposed the sale of Time Warner and HBO to AT&T in the first place as a way to fend off a Rupert Murdoch News Corporation acquisition attempt. But if you've paid even the slightest bit of attention to U.S. telecom over the past 30 years, you quickly come to understand that US telecom a sector dominated by hubris and yes men and women who live in reality-optional bubbles. Being a government pampered monopoly creates an executive culture that's not great at listening to or playing with others, and AT&T is the poster child.

Whether it's Verizon's Go90 or AT&T's megamerger spree, the end result is always fairly consistent any time a telecom giant wanders outside of its core competencies (running networks and lobbying to dismantle competition and regulatory oversight). 50,000 people lost their jobs as a result of AT&T incompetence and hubris, and AT&T executives are still out there acting as if they are the victims. That's the message again sent in the book by AT&T CEO John Stankey, who blames everybody but himself for the implosion:

"If you are in an acquisition and somebody pays a premium for your stock, by definition it means something has to change," Stankey is quoted as saying in Miller's book, according to the WSJ. "If you paid a premium for an operation and you continue to operate it exactly the same way, you never pay back the premium."

Stankey also said that "he still believes in the vision behind AT&T's purchase" but that he made the spinoff deal with Discovery in part because investors "refused to give us credit for [the] progress" made with Time Warner. "One of the jobs I need to do in carrying AT&T forward is ensuring we come up with a strategy that the investor base will tolerate and work through and give us the right credit for," Stankey said.

This is the same AT&T that not only proposed but funded OAN as a facts option disinformation mill. It's the same company that has repeatedly been caught ripping off customers, governments, and schools, and has spent decades engaging in sleazy lobbying tactics to protect its regional broadband monopoly. And it's the same telecom industry that has failed repeatedly every single time they try something new (mobile payment systems, app stores, Millennial-targeting ad ventures, apps, whatever). Especially if it requires collaboration, competition, innovation, creativity, and adaptation.

Anybody surprised that myopic telecom monopoly executives wouldn't be good at running a new media venture in a functional, competitive new market either wasn't paying attention -- or was just blinded by giant number signs.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: competition, content, jeff bewkes, merger, telcos
Companies: at&t, hbo, time warner


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Nov 2021 @ 4:28am

    Re: On the plus side...

    You ever looked at how cheaply you can purchase your own pocket congress critter?
    Its a pittance.


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.